Is it ethical for private universities to force students to take religious courses?
Some colleges, even some high schools here in San Diego, require students to take religious courses. For example, at our neighboring school Cathedral Catholic, students have to take one catholic religion course each year. Not only does this take the space of another useful class, but students who are not Catholic are forced to learn these subjects. Yes, there are students that attend private “religious” universities that are not of that religion. Schools like Pepperdine and University of San Diego make it a requirement to take not only one religious course but up to three courses during the student’s time at that school. My sister is currently a student at USD studying engineering; not only does she have to set aside 9 units to take religious courses, but she has to also complete 140 engineering units to graduate with that degree. But is this ethical? One could argue that this goes against our freedom to practice the religion of our choice.
Private universities are forcing students who may not even be religious to take courses on top of their already strenuous work load. Unlike USD, Pepperdine requires the students to take certain classes pertaining to a particular religion, not even giving the students the freedom to decide what religion they want to study. They are also required to attend a number of religious events each year and meet a quota to pass their religious requirements. Should students be forced to do these requirements? Obviously public universities like San Diego State and CSU San Marcos are run by state government and therefore cannot enforce requirements pertaining to religion. But they can offer courses for those students who wish to do so. This is an ethical way to go about religion in universities public and private. It is unethical to force someone to take religious courses that may contradict their rights and beliefs. In every other aspect of life, free will has been an important part of the construction of our country. Allowing private universities to make religious requirements is purely unethical. Students should at least be given the option of taking an extra course in math, English, or business in its place that can enrich the students’ knowledge even after they have graduated college. This way, students will actually use the classes they take as opposed to taking classes just to fit a requirement. By making religious classes optional, it is opening up the availability of students to freely choose their path towards furthering their education. I know my sister would greatly enjoy the opportunity to take another science or math course and potentially be able to double major in something that would further her career. Giving students the ability to decide their future through the classes they take, is an ethical way to solve this religious requirement problem crowding students with the stresses of college life.
Amanda Presar is a staff writer for Pulse Magazine.